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28 October 2010

S3M-7269 Renewable Energy [Closing Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 28 October 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
Renewable Energy

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Alasdair Morgan): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-7269, in the name of Liam McArthur, on renewable energy.

10:24
... ... ...
11:29

Stewart Stevenson:

This has been an interesting debate, if not a particularly consensual one. I will try to respond to points that have been raised, but I say at the outset that I have heard nothing to alter our perception that the UK Government's proposal on the fossil fuel levy is nothing but a bad and very late deal. As such, it is not appropriate.

Scottish Water has been mentioned a couple of times. I am working hard on the future for Scottish Water, and we will be excitingly engaged in that in the future.

Mike Rumbles (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD): Excitingly engaged?

Stewart Stevenson: It is always exciting when I am involved.

Ross Finnie made an interesting contribution. He actually said—I am going to check the Official Report—that it is not our money. The reality is that I have a statutory instrument on the matter signed by Allan Wilson in 2005 and another from 2002 that clearly indicate that the powers to collect and attribute the money lie here. Under the proposals in front of us, control is to be taken away and given to others.

Ross Finnie: Will the minister take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson: I simply do not have time.

Gavin Brown quoted Scottish Renewables. Perhaps he should read more carefully what has been said elsewhere. In today's Daily Record, Scottish Renewables says:

"It would be a massive missed opportunity if this money cannot be freed up"

to support Scotland's renewables sector over the next six to 12 months. No contribution to the debate has suggested that we are even faintly near that. Indeed, on the Liberal Democrats' position, today's Daily Record leading article states:

"It is a bad deal and the Lib Dems' brassneck in defending it, as they will at Holyrood today"—

the newspaper is correct on that—

"is breathtaking."

Jeremy Purvis: If I understand the minister correctly, he is saying that the money should be Barnett consequentialled. The only area to be protected for Barnett consequentials in this spending review is health. Not one penny of that money has been committed for renewables under the Government's own preferred method.

Stewart Stevenson: I am really quite baffled by the introduction of Barnett consequentials to the debate. This is our money. It has been taken away from the control of the Scottish Government and this Parliament and put elsewhere. There is no new money. Absolutely fundamentally, and leaving aside questions of ownership and disposition, the critical thing is that it is being delayed by three years, in particular comparison with what the Liberal Democrats stated before the election. I do not know whether that was in the Liberal Democrat manifesto, but it was certainly in a document for the election, and on page 74 the Liberals said that in 2011-12—

Duncan McNeil: Will the minister take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson: I will.

Duncan McNeil: If we had the money, would the minister seriously spend £65 million on the development of Hunterston? What do we need to do to ensure that the west coast cluster is viable?

Stewart Stevenson: The £65 million is the total project cost, not the Government's cost. It is also worth making the point that there is a cluster approach that will ensure that we look at the opportunities. I give that assurance to the member, and we will hear more about it at a later stage because he makes an important and relevant point that it is correct to draw to our attention.

Sarah Boyack says that independence is a distraction, but forgive me if I take a fundamentally different view. If we could take independent control of the money, we could decide how to spend it, notwithstanding the issues of being in the sterling area or not, which are entirely a red herring that we need not concern ourselves with.

I say to Jackson Carlaw that soor plooms are one of the traditional Scottish sweets, and I am happy to sook them to boost my energy levels at any other time—if only we could suck the money out of the coffers of Ofgem so that we could refresh the economy of Scotland.

Sarah Boyack: Will the minister give way?

Stewart Stevenson: I am now 30 seconds from the end. I am sorry but I simply cannot.

It is absolutely vital that the money is made available to Scotland immediately and in a way that is additional. It will enable us to start making investments in Liberal areas right across Scotland—Scrabster harbour, Orkney, Shetland and Kishorn. Liberal voters will be looking at the behaviour of their MSPs in denying them access to the money with some grave concern indeed.

11:34

S3M-7269 Renewable Energy [Opening Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 28 October 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
Renewable Energy

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Alasdair Morgan): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-7269, in the name of Liam McArthur, on renewable energy.

10:24
... ... ...
10:31

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):

Many of us are very grateful to Liam McArthur for raising this subject. The debate gives us the opportunity to hold the UK Government's proposal on the use of the fossil fuel levy up to the light. When we do that, it is impossible not to notice the serious loopholes and fundamental flaws that riddle what is apparently a generous offer.

Mr McArthur has suggested that there is a division between the First Minister and the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth. I assure him that there is not. The division on the matter is between the proposals that have now been put forward by Liberal Democrats and their manifesto, which on page 74 speaks about

"a one-off payment in the 2011 budget."

They said that they would

"give control of future revenues to the Scottish Government. This will likely lead to an increase in resources for Scotland of around £250 million in 2011-12."

That offer is very distant from that which is now before us, which would mean having a three-year period during which we are denied access to the money in any meaningful way. It is our money, as a Parliament; it is our money, here in Scotland.

I hope that I can reassure Liam McArthur that we are fully engaged on the Skykon issue. There will be a meeting today involving Scottish Enterprise and Skykon.

If we postpone the money until 2013, it will be utterly irrelevant to the issues that are faced by companies, which have needs today. That is very different from the proposition that is before us. I hope that, by the close of the debate, Liam McArthur will also be able to see that; that is, assuming that he cannot see the flaws already, and is instead choosing to draw a veil over them.

Let me restate the basics of the situation. The fossil fuel levy surplus, which is money that has been raised from renewables projects in Scotland, as funded by Scots consumers, sits at £190 million. Liam McArthur might, of course, wish to amend his motion in that respect. Indeed, in only nine days, he has resiled from a figure of £500 million, which is referred to as being fossil fuel levy money in the Liberals' press release of 20 October.

By statute, the money can be spent only on promoting renewable energy in Scotland. The money simply cannot be drawn down and spent for that purpose, however, unless the Treasury allows it to be added to the Scottish block spending limit—something that it has repeatedly failed to do. I acknowledge that, at the end of his term in office, the outgoing Chancellor of the Exchequer showed signs of movement on that issue, and we welcome that.

The motion, in common with the UK Government's offer, pivots on the risible proposition around the interpretation of "additional". Let us be absolutely clear: the offer from the UK Government, which has found such uncritical support on the Scottish Liberal Democrat benches, does not change the position of the previous UK Administration by one iota. In effect, the UK Government is saying that if we draw down our fossil fuel levy money and use it for our planned renewables expenditure during the next few years, it will use its corresponding savings—from reducing the Scottish block accordingly—to add to the green investment bank, which is not directly under the control of the Scottish ministers or the Scottish Parliament.

Gavin Brown (Lothians) (Con): How does the minister explain the enormous gulf in tone between what his Government is saying and what all the Scottish business organisations and Scottish Renewables are saying about the announcement?

Stewart Stevenson: Gavin Brown should be very careful in ascribing to business and Scottish Renewables support for the proposition that is before the Parliament. It is clear that there is significant concern about the timing of access to the money. We should have access to the money right now. By 2013, many of the key opportunities for the renewables industry in Scotland will have passed us by. That is key—

Gavin Brown: What about the Scottish Investment Bank?

Stewart Stevenson: There is a debate for members of Gavin Brown's party to have and I hope that they will address the issues.

We might see funds in three or four years' time. That does not help us with our immediate needs and opportunities. The green investment bank will fall far short of the minimum of £4 billion to £6 billion that is demanded by the renewables industry, which would have been expected already to have delivered major investments and benefits for Scotland's renewable and low-carbon sector.

It is absolutely unclear to me why anyone who is outside Liam McArthur's narrow circle should find the offer welcome. It is also hard for me to reconcile the member's enthusiastic welcome for an offer that takes money away from the Scottish Parliament and the renewables sector with the aim that the Scottish Liberal Democrats set out in their manifesto this year, which was that the release of the money would

"lead to an increase in resources for Scotland of around £250 million in 2011-12."

That is the commitment to which Liam McArthur signed up, but how it has changed since his colleagues took their places in the new UK Government. It has unravelled, to the extent that Liam McArthur's motion hails as generous an offer that takes vital resources away from the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament and away from the needs of the renewables industry.

The offer that is before us is not in Scotland's interests. We have expressed serious reservations and we asked for urgent clarification on vital aspects, but our questions have not yet been answered. The offer is a chimera; it is a conjuring trick, it is a con and it is a sleight of hand, which takes money that was raised in Scotland and locks it away to meet an existing UK Government commitment at some unspecified, but probably distant, future point. Rather than welcome such an offer, we, along with others who share our interest in the matter, will continue to fight for Scotland's interests.

I move amendment S3M-7269.1, to leave out from "welcomes" to end and insert:

"notes Scotland's massive renewable energy resources and the opportunities to turn Scotland into Europe's clean green energy powerhouse; notes the UK Government's proposals that would result in Scotland's Fossil Fuel Levy fund helping to form part of a wider UK green investment bank fund that is due to be established in 2013-14; notes the lack of detail underlying that commitment and the risk that this could delay vital funding for the renewables sector in Scotland for several years, and calls urgently on the UK Government to release these funds and place them in the control of the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament in a way that can be rapidly deployed to support Scotland's renewable energy sector."

10:38

7 October 2010

S3M-7154 Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010 [Closing Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 7 October 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010

The Presiding Officer (Alex Fergusson):
The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-7154, in the name of Bruce Crawford, on the Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010.

Motion moved,

That the Parliament agrees that the Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010 be approved.—[Bruce Crawford.]

16:40
... ... ...
16:56

Stewart Stevenson:

I thank all members for their contributions, from which it is clear that the Parliament retains high ambitions on climate change. All members who spoke in this short debate spoke of the value of the working group. I single out the chair, Mike Robinson, for his efforts in keeping us on track—[Interruption.]

The Presiding Officer: Order. The minister is winding up the debate. I, for one, would like to hear him.

Stewart Stevenson: Mike Robinson kept us on track and provided the external objectivity that was of value to the group. I thank him very much indeed. I hope that it is seen that we have responded positively in bringing forward this new order.

Sarah Boyack said that pilots cannot give certainty. I agree absolutely with the point. That said, pilots can give greater understanding of the options that are in front of us. Not all pilots have positive outcomes. When a pilot has a negative outcome—as may well happen in some cases—it stops us from pursuing something that does not work. I hope that pilots continue to be an important part of the way in which we look at things right up to 2050.

I believe that Jackson Carlaw's wife cannot wait to get him home tonight—

Members: Whoah!

Stewart Stevenson: Laryngitis is an opportunity she has long looked for.

As I said in my opening speech, we must now focus on delivery. Since the Parliament last considered the order, we have seen examples including the zero waste plan, the Scottish green bus fund and the energy efficiency action plan, which I highlighted earlier. Each of those examples contains significant actions that will deliver emission reductions in Scotland. Of course, in the report on proposals and policies that we will produce in November, we will set out how we intend to meet our emissions targets.

Let us absolutely accept that reducing the initial targets by 2 million tonnes in the first year in the new order by comparison with the previous order and having set a trajectory that is much more challenging to 2022, we have set a very challenging way forward for all of us. It is important that we continue to keep focused on the objective of the 42 per cent reduction by 2020. It is also important that we continue to engage with people across Europe and that we get the European Union to step up to our ambitions and support us by increasing its target to 30 per cent. We face a huge challenge, but we are in a position to move forward to the delivery phase. The targets before us are the ones that we should pass tonight. I commend them to the chamber.

17:00

S3M-7154 Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010 [Opening Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 7 October 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010

The Presiding Officer (Alex Fergusson):
The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-7154, in the name of Bruce Crawford, on the Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010.

Motion moved,

That the Parliament agrees that the Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010 be approved.—[Bruce Crawford.]

16:40

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):

Members will likely be aware that the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee voted on Tuesday for the new annual targets order. The committee's consideration of the order followed the deliberations of the working group that I established to consider the issues around the setting of the annual targets. The contributions from members of the working group were constructive and I thank everyone who participated. I believe that the forum could be a model for the facilitation of certain kinds of policy development.

The targets contained in the draft instrument are much more stretching than the targets in the previous order and require all of our current climate change policies to be delivered in full. The new draft annual targets order proposes targets for the years 2010 to 2012 that are approximately 2 megatonnes CO2 equivalent lower each year than those in the previous version of the order. Over the period 2010 to 2022, the proposed new annual targets cumulatively would save 14 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent.

The new targets follow advice from the United Kingdom Committee on Climate Change on the shape of the trajectory. The committee's original advice has been supplemented by further analysis outlining a potentially larger impact of the recession on Scottish emissions, which justifies setting more stretching targets than the committee's original analysis suggested.

The challenges that we face are considerable, not least because of the tight fiscal situation in which we find ourselves, and will become clearer in the coming months. Everyone in Scotland will need to play their part in helping to ensure that Scotland takes a lead in developing a low-carbon economy. A vital part of a low-carbon economy will be the efficient use of resources. The Scottish Government's energy efficiency action plan, published yesterday, sets out a clear plan of action to deliver energy-demand reduction and resource-efficiency measures throughout the domestic, business and public sectors in Scotland. The plan includes a headline target to reduce total energy consumption by 12 per cent by 2020. Local councils are to be given £10 million in grants to offer free insulation measures and provide energy saving advice to up to 100,000 households.

Together with existing commitments, including the target to generate 80 per cent of Scottish electricity consumption levels from renewable energy within the next decade, the energy efficiency target will be key to delivering Scotland's world-leading carbon reduction target of a 42 per cent cut in CO2 by 2020.

By improving household energy efficiency, Scots could save an estimated £2 billion by 2020 from smaller energy bills, while investment in energy efficiency over that period could directly support around 10,000 jobs in Scotland.

Jeremy Purvis (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale) (LD): Will the member take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson:
I am so short of time that I cannot.

I highlight the Scottish Government's Scottish green bus fund. It has been slightly oversubscribed and we are still waiting for one company to bring forward proposals—we have agreed to accept them late—but it is definitely successful. Launched in July this year, the fund has been developed to incentivise the purchase of low-carbon vehicles by funding up to 100 per cent of the price difference between an LCV and its diesel equivalent. We expect it to deliver more than 50 low-carbon vehicles. We are pleased with the mix of bids, which have been submitted by large and small bus operators in Scotland.

It is vital that we now focus on delivery. The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 requires that we set out a report on proposals and policies for achieving the annual targets after the targets are set. We have committed to publishing a draft report on proposals and policies for parliamentary consideration in November. Work on that is being aligned with preparatory work on the draft budget, which is due after the UK Government concludes its comprehensive spending review.

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament, has rightly been the subject of widespread praise in Scotland and internationally for the level of ambition it sets out. It is important that we remain united behind Scotland's climate change ambition. Scotland is the only country that can say, year by year through very stretching annual targets, how we will drive emissions down to our 2020 target of a 42 per cent cut.

I am pleased to support the motion moved by my colleague.

16:45

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